By Angela Haggerty
Questions are mounting for the UK government after Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger revealed the paper was forced to destroy hard drives containing leaked material from US whistleblower Edward Snowden to prevent the British Government seizing it.
Rusbridger said the paper was contacted by the country’s most senior civil servant – subsequently named as Sir Jeremy Heywood – on the orders of Prime Minister David Cameron following the Snowden revelations about US and UK spying and surveillance tactics. 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Foreign Secretary William Hague backed the Prime Minister’s decision.

He said he was told during the call: “You’ve had your fun. Now we want the stuff back.” Rusbridger added that meetings with Whitehall officials confirmed the Government’s intention to pursue the paper through legal channels in an effort to gain possession of the Snowden material.

The Guardian subsequently took the decision to destroy the information to prevent it falling into the hands of the state and sought advice from GCHQ intelligence experts about “which bits of the hard drive to smash up, in what way”.

However, Government officials stood firm on the moves and said it was the duty of the state to ensure classified information did not end up in “the wrong hands”.

The news comes just days after the detention of David Miranda – partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Snowden story – for nine hours at Heathrow Airport under schedule 7 of the 2000 Terrorism Act.  Mr Greenwald described the incident as a “profound escalation of their attacks on the news gathering process and journalism”.

The US government admitted being given a “heads up” by UK officials that Miranda was in custody but said the decision had been made entirely by the British.  Home Secretary Theresa May has denied the detention was made on government orders and claimed it was solely a police decision.

However, the Government has faced heavy criticism over the use of terrorism legislation to detain Miranda.  Former Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, Lord Falconer, strongly criticised the use of the terrorism act in Miranda’s case.

In a blog for the Guardian, he said: “There is no suggestion that Miranda is a terrorist, or that his detention and questioning at Heathrow was for any other reason than his involvement in his partner Glenn Greenwald’s reporting of the Edward Snowden story.  The state has not even hinted there is a justification beyond that involvement.

“The state may wish that journalists would not publish sensitive material, but it is up to journalists, not the state, to decide where to draw the line.  If the state contends a person holds information unlawfully there are a range of powers it can use to restrain its use, though they are all subject to legal limitations.  The schedule 7 power is not given to restrain the use of information.”

It’s understood Miranda intends to launch legal action after his laptop, mobile phone, DVDs and memory sticks were seized by UK officials.


2013-08-21 23:19

What a revolting police state this is now. Who will protect us from a rogue government?
2013-08-21 23:32

Is it just me or did others shudder at the phrase “It is the duty of the state………”

It appears it is now they state which decides what the state can do. It’s getting scary now. War on terror or war on our rights and civil liberties?

Another good reason to vote YES.
2013-08-21 23:32

More than ever, people in Scotland must vote YES and extract ourselves from this creeping fascism and spineless, corrupt UK Government.
2013-08-22 07:41

If this is what they are willing to do in the full glare of the global media, what are they prepared to do in secret when they think no one is looking.
Also, if Theresa May is not telling lies, what on earth are the British police doing talking to the American government?
2013-08-22 08:03

The state makes the laws, but the state can decide when to obey

Vote YES 2014
Mad Jock McMad
2013-08-22 08:53

We are now at the point where Orwell’s 1984 becomes fact and not fiction if we stay with this neo-liberal pottage of privilege, ignorance and self importance.

The UK Parliament is not above the law nor, in its present format, is it constitutionall  y impregnable. The UK Parliament is in error in its assumption that Scotland has been subsumed by English constitutional practice.

It is time to challenge the crown by seeking its withdrawal from Elizabeth, Queen of Scots as she has failed to protect the people of Scotland’s sovereign powers from the UK Parliament’s actions and predation as is required of her under the oath she made under the Claim of Right (Scotland) 1689 in 1952.

It is time to light a fire under the British Establishment – the English constitutional concept of ‘the English crown in Parliament’ has no constitutional power in Scots law nor can it be enforced.

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